I think the Colts can basically win the AFC South this weekend.
No, I’m not high on copious amounts of Halloween candy (Oh, wait... Halloween was postponed until today in Indiana). I realize that it’s November 1st, and there is still half of the regular season left to be played. However, if the Colts win in Houston on Sunday night, I can’t imagine a scenario where they would lose their stranglehold on the division.
Think about this: if the Colts win…
- They’ll be five games up - four games plus the tiebreaker - on the Texans, effectively ending whatever chance Houston has of capturing a third-straight division crown.
- Indy would remain at least two full games up on second-place Tennessee, who has lost three straight after a 3-1 start.
- Colts will be 2-0 in the division, with two of the three road games already out of the way. The remaining division schedule includes three home games and a trip to Nashville.
- A .500 finish (4-4) in the second half would put the Colts at 10-6, a mark that Tennessee would have to go 7-2 (including a win this Sunday) and Houston would have to go 8-0 to reach. (Jacksonville would have to go 10 and -2, which is mathematically impossible.)
- The second-half schedule is lighter, as St. Louis, at Arizona, and Jacksonville all look like sure wins. That would put the Colts in a worst-case scenario of 9-7, which would require a pair of losses to the Titans (unlikely). Tennesse's second-half schedule is also weak, but at 3-4, they don't look like a team that's going to get to 10+ wins.
- Colts will likely own most of the tiebreakers over Tennessee, as long as they split the two games with the Titans. With a win in Houston, Indy would be 3-1 in common games with the Titans, while Tennesse would be 1-3. They'd also lead in the second tiebreaker, division record, at 2-0 (Titans are 0-1 so far).
- The rest of the AFC South is 2-14 since Week 3, and combined to go 0-10 in the month of October. If not for the historically putrid NFC East, it would be considered the NFL's worst division.
Sunday night’s game is no gimmie. Indianapolis punched San Francisco in the mouth in Week 3, but the Colts are still a team that has played better at home than on the road against teams not named “Jacksonville”. We don’t know much about Case Keenum, but he did play fairly well against a tough Chiefs defense at Arrowhead in his first NFL start. He can’t be any worse than Matt Schaub (7 INT) was in his last five starts.
Desperate teams are tough outs, and I fully expect Houston to go down swinging. Even if they stub their toe on Sunday night, the Colts will be through the teeth of their schedule at 5-3 and remain in excellent shape to reclaim their spot atop the AFC South.